Society

Fighting the demons every day

I am 45 years old, menopausal, and a patient of mental illness.

I wasn’t always this way, though. Thinking back to 20 years ago, I was full of life, cheerful, determined. My mother used to describe me as the “light of the family”.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 30. Hailing from a conservative family, mental illness wasn’t talked about much and nobody knew what signs to look out for. There were days when I couldn’t get out of bed and days when I completely hyperventilated for the smallest of things, and days when I was completely fine.

After one such hyperventilation episode when I screamed and threw something that almost hit my child, my husband took me to a psychiatrist, who told me I had just experienced an episode of psychosis, and consequently diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. He explained to me that it was mental illness which resulted in extreme mood swings, and the phases would unpredictably range from depression to psychosis, and that I would have to take medication to control the illness.

The news shattered me. I thought people would label me as “mad”, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to shake off the social stigma attached to mental illnesses. I was fearful of the trauma I would inflict on my child, when I was in a state of psychosis threatening to kill myself. Bipolar disorder took over my life. While my life was active and normal life for the most part, I lost all the confidence and independence I had 20 years ago. Small things like my child coming home five minutes late would set off my anxiety.

But in the last 10 years, I have had only two such extreme episodes, followed by a bout of depression. I make sure I take my medication on time and see the psychiatrist regularly. My family has been very supportive, and has never treated the illness as anything different than say a physical ailment and forgive me when the nature of my illness pushes me to say cruel things.

It’s easy for people to say “cheer up, it’s all in your head”, or “you need to try harder”, but nobody really understands that I am fighting. I fight the demons in my head every day, who tell me that there is an easier way out of this pain. I fight the horrible hallucinations my mind gives me; I am fighting it all the time. I am 45, menopausal and a patient of mental illness, but it has given me inner strength like nothing before.

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Printable version | Aug 8, 2020 12:17:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/fighting-the-demons-every-day/article7137916.ece

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